Monday, December 23, 2002

# Posted 8:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RHODES SCHOLARS BACK HART IN '04: As if Bill Clinton didn't do enough to ensure that the phrases "Rhodes Scholar" and "illicit sex" became stuck together with super glue in America's imagination... It turns out that a pair of Rhodes Scholars who've just come back from Oxford have launched Gary Hart's 2004 presidential campaign. Hart himself hasn't said yes or no, but that sort of thing shouldn't trouble a committed over-achiever. In fact, the only reason George Stephanopolous brought up a potential Hart candidacy on ABC's This Week was that one of the Scholars suggested it to him.

The Scholars behind the campaign are Antwaun Smith and Will Polkinghorn, both of whom are now in graduate school at Harvard. One thing I know about Antwaun and Will is that they are always looking for things to do besides their homework. That is one of the reasons they spent so much time with Hart when he was at Oxford a couple of years back. For those who don't know Antwaun or Will (or Gary), their enthusiasm for Hart might seem to be utterly ridiculous. Even if we are living in the "post-Clinon" era, it is hard to believe that America would forgive Hart for his involvement with Donna Rice. But because I've spent time talking to Hart one-on-one, I know why Antwaun and Will are so enthusiastic.

Gary Hart cares about America and cares about ideas. Rather than spending his time at posh dinners, he tried to learn as much as he could from other students. He was even nice enough to read my 30-page memo on US grand strategy and give me substantial feedback. (If you need a cure for insomnia, I'd be happy to send you a copy.) When you talk to Hart, you get the sense of talking to someone who has been out of politics for a long time and reflected thoughtfully on the lessons of his time in Washington. He thinks outside the box. When you talk to him, you understand how he and Warren Rudman could've realizedbefore September 11th that terrorism is the single greatest threat to American security and that we need a Department of Homeland Security to plan our defense.

Does this mean that Hart has a shot? I am pessimistic. His strength is his expertise on national security affairs. But as of now Bush is untouchable on that front. With good reason, most Democratic voters would probably be afraid that a Bush-Hart campaign would become a referendum on Clinton's sexual ethics. Which is why Joe Lieberman is now the leader of the pack, albeit not in a commanding position.

UPDATE: Amygdalapoints out that Hart was known for being an innovative, outside-the-box thinker even while he was in office. So I might be wrong that he has learned to think more creatively about politics by being away from it.
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